Welcome to my second year of doing an annual review! I was inspired by Chris Guillebeau and his own annual review process. While the first part of my review is the same as Chris's, the second part is different, because I'm more of a visual person and using Chris's spreadsheet to set and measure goals didn't appeal to me at all!

Before we jump into my 2015 annual review, I wanted to send you all a personal holiday message! Watch the video below to listen in…

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What I love about the first part of the annual review process is that you're presented with two questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What did not go well this year?

These two questions alone are worth pondering for yourself, whether you're in business for yourself or not. Reflecting on what you've done well and what hasn't gone so well—allows you to figure out how your 2016 is going to pan out and when you need to pivot.

I already had a fair idea of how these two questions were going to be answered for myself, so when I sat down to really think about them, there weren't too many surprises.

So without further ado, let's just jump straight into the results of all this thinking!

2015 Annual Review – Part 1

My favourite part of this process is focusing on the positives right up front. It sets the right tone and puts you in the right mood to be able to be objective when dealing with the second question…

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#1: I was able to write and publish 14 new books this year

Bringing my total to 20 books published. This is a personal feat in and of itself, although it does fall shy of the 30 books I had scheduled to have written this year!

When I first started writing as my side hustle back in 2011, I never could have predicted that I would eventually be making money from books that I had written as well as coaching others how to do the same.

What I've learned is that taking a risk and banking on myself has paid off every single time, so I'm going to continue doing this throughout 2016, as I decide which direction to take.

It goes without saying that my goals for 2016 include writing more books!

#2: My book, No Gym Needed (Women's version) has NEVER dropped out of the top 5 in its category

This is the first book I wrote when I committed to starting my self publishing career back in July 2014. I honestly cannot believe that it has held the #1 spot in the Health, Fitness & Dieting > Exercise & Fitness > Aerobics category for 80% of the past 12 months.

This was a very personal book for me, because I'm not a fan of the gym at all. I've held a love/hate relationship with exercise for years, and going to the gym on a consistent basis has never lasted longer than 3 months for me.

So when I started Self Publishing School, I was encouraged to start a book from scratch, rather than rework a book I already had in the pipeline. So when I sat down and wrote down all my hobbies, interests and what problems I was facing or had faced and overcome, exercising without having to join the gym and purchase gym equipment, was what kept jumping out at me.

Within a week of launching the book, it was a#1 bestseller on Amazon and I was hooked. This is the book that set me on my path for the remainder of 2014 and the book that set the tone for the first half of 2015.

And now, the book is also getting a major overhaul for the new year, along with some premium challenges to go along with the book, as that is what people request the most, 30-day challenges to keep them on track. It seems people really enjoy being told what to do and when, when it comes to exercise routines that is!

Watch this space for more NGN awesomeness!

#3: I added 2,500 subscribers to Mailchimp

While this might seem like a low number, this is solely from passive list building strategies… ie they came from all 20 of my published books!

I'm really excited about this number, because it tells me that, with a little more effort in 2016, I can increase that figure quite significantly, particularly when I start applying Nick Stephenson's Your First 10K Readers strategies! I purchased his course at the beginning of 2015, went through it once, but haven't properly implemented all of the strategies. This is going to be a focus for 2016 for sure!


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#1: Leaving a stable home environment

In June, we decided to leave Auckland, New Zealand and head to Chiang Mai for 3+ months while we waited for our Canadian residency invitation to arrive.

We made this decision based on a number of factors:

  1. Guy wasn't happy in his job, in fact he didn't like it at all
  2. We needed to reduce our living expenses
  3. We had both had enough of the expensive cost of living that is a major drawback of living in a country like New Zealand
  4. We craved warmer weather

We decided on Chiang Mai, Thailand because we had heard some great things from my entrepreneurial friends and we had already spent time in Phuket, so we wanted to try somewhere different. Plus, one of my friends who lives there was going to be away for the majority of the time we were going to be there, so we had a place to live that we didn't have to worry about trying to find.

So we packed everything up, left boxes and a suitcase at my parents place and left for Chiang Mai early July.

The first two weeks of living in Chiang Mai were not so fun. Guy got sick twice, with the first illness being a sinus infection, which we got treatment for, but the medication was so strong, it resulted in a stomach infection, so a double-whammy for poor Guy.

It's important to note that I DO NOT ride scooters! Guy is the master of scooter riding and I'm his humble passenger. There was a point where I thought I was just going to have to get over my fear and jump on that scooter… but even in his sick state, Guy wasn't having any of that, lol!

In the end, we had to jump in a taxi and get him to a doctor…

Anyway, let's just say that this set the tone for the remainder of our time in Chiang Mai. It had really coloured our idyllic thoughts of living in Chiang Mai.

It took us almost a month to settle into life in Chiang Mai, but we did. We found some great places to work from and some great places to eat, not to mention a great open-air gym (I know, I hate gyms but it was a different experience in Thailand!) that we were able to go to consistently and start to see some results.

But, after about six weeks of being in Chiang Mai, we really started to miss Western living. The constant battle that is riding a scooter was beginning to take it's toll, not to mention having to go somewhere to work every day.

The option of working from home for the both of us just didn't work in the space we were living in, so this meant having to pack up our laptops every day, including power adaptors and anything else we needed to work (for me, that meant my Apple keyboard, I ‘write' better with it) effectively with. This got old very quickly, particularly on the days where it rained. Riding on a scooter in the rain is not my idea of fun!

So while we were in Chiang Mai, we were able to be fairly productive, we were limited by the hours that we were out, and this was usually broken up into morning and afternoon because we had to eat. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to stop working mid-flow because your tummy is growling at you!

Of the spaces that we worked from, we never had access to food in the immediate vicinity. We always had to go somewhere to get food as well.

After a particularly long bout of torrential rain, which resulted in us having to stay home for two days straight and live off bread and nutella, we decided it was time to leave Chiang Mai. Which lead us to the next decision…

#2: Heading to Canada without completing proper due diligence

Our plan had been to stay in Chiang Mai until we got our Canadian residency invitation, but while we were in Chiang Mai, our immigration lawyer informed us that our score in the Express Entry Pool was too low to get an invite without Guy securing a job offer.

Up until this point, the immigration law firm we had been dealing with, and it's subsequent case managers (we had 3), had lead us to believe that we were sitting in a specific score range that wouldn't require Guy to need a job offer.

Let's stop right here so I can explain a few points better…

The Express Entry Pool came into effect 1st January 2015, which changed the way skilled migrants could immigrate to Canada. The change saw applicants being given a score out of 1200 once their application was lodged with Canadian Immigration.

Invitations are issued to candidates who have the highest score in the pool at the time of the invitations being initiated. Invitations are issued each month, sometimes twice a month. You have no idea where you sit in the pool at any given time, you just know what your score is.

Suffice to say, the lower your score is, the harder it is to get that elusive invitation.

In comparison, prior to January 2015, if you were a skilled migrant, you could apply and as long as you met the criteria, you'd be allowed to immigrate. This older process was a first come, first served basis and took up to 24 months for residency to be issued.

Under the new Express Entry scheme, this is meant to be reduced to about 6-12 months ONCE an invitation has been issued.


Ok, so coming back to our decision to head to Canada early. After we received the news that our score was on the lower side, we decided that to increase our score, we'd head to Canada and investigate the option of doing some further study that would increase our score.

This is where things started to fall apart… We had a conversation with our immigration lawyer case manager, and she said it would be a great idea to get some training in Canada, as this would increase our score, and as we were looking to take French language courses, the second language of Canada, this would be a double-whammy in terms of increasing our score.

It's at this point that a good immigration lawyer would have then told us what we needed to do in terms of being able to study in Canada, but they didn't, and so we didn't think to ask or inquire further… we were under the misconception that we could just show up to Canada, check things out, make a decision on what course to take and then pop across the border and get our study permit on the way back in…

Se we booked our one-way tickets to Canada under these misconceptions.

And here's the Cliffsnotes version on how that went:

  1. Mistake #1: We didn't have a return ticket booked out of Canada
  2. Mistake #2: On our customs declaration card, we said we would be in Canada for 3 months
  3. Mistake #3: Not telling our friends in Canada what our plans were

These three mistakes nearly cost us denied entry into Canada. Honestly, Customs in any country are not overly familiar or appreciative of a digital nomad existence, and not having a return ticket booked coupled with our declaration cards saying we were going to be there for 3 months, raised MASSIVE red flags to Canadian Customs officers.

If you read the OFS newsletter, you already know the details on how it all panned out. 3 weeks later we were on a plane, leaving North America and heading back to Australia.

Productivity plummeted while we were in Canada. Neither of us could get into the right headspace, because we were still dealing with the fact that we weren't going to be staying in Canada for 3 months, like we'd planned, and this meant that we were going to miss out on some pretty important events that we didn't want to miss (personal stuff).

And then once we got back to Australia, we had to find a place to live. We had sold all our stuff when we left Australia back in 2013 to head to Phuket then New Zealand, so this meant we had no furniture and no car.

What we did have was amazing friends who put us up for a month and allowed us to use their car while we looked for a place. And when we did find a place, we were then faced with the stupid National Broadband Network implementation… leading to 6 weeks of NO INTERNET AT HOME! I apologise for the shouting, but it's still raw, lol!

This put us back into the situation of having to head out every day to get any work done. Complete and utter madness!

So between Chiang Mai, Canada and moving back to Australia, the last 4-5 months have been the least productive for me since I quit my job in June 2012!

#3: Not diversifying my income as planned

One of my goals from the end of 2014 was to diversify my income in 2015. This just didn't happen. I had planned to release a couple of paid courses, as well as branch out into a few other businesses, but due to the last half of 2015 being so bad productivity wise, my head space just wasn't where it needed to be to diversify as I'd planned.

None of the above is an excuse, I want to be very clear on that. There is absolutely no excuse for me not picking myself back up and dusting myself off and getting on with things, but as much as I tried to do that, I just couldn't. And that's ok.

If there's one thing I've learned throughout all of this — it's that trying to force myself through a situation that sucks faster than I can actually process it… well, ole' Neville (my mind) tends to dig his heels in and wallow and no amount of positivity and affirmations can bring him out of it.

As anyone that knows me will attest, I am 99% positive all of the time, but even I have my limits 😉


Phew, sorry for the long post guys, but there was a lot to cover! Next week I'll be covering the second part of the annual review plus letting you in on the new OFS Course! It will be ready to go for January 7, 2016!

This is your last chance to jump on the early bird notification list and grab 70% off the new OFS Course!

You'll learn how to start your own Side Hustle business,  learn how to find the right clients and figure out where your skills will actually make you money!

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Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

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